Big and small, edible school yards are the fresh new idea coming to classrooms all around the U.S.
What's an edible school yard?
The original edible school yard, or ESY, is a one-acre garden in Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, Calif. The idea was started by chef and author Alice Waters through the Chez Panisse Foundation to promote healthy and organic eating and to combat childhood obesity. The edible school yard is more than just a school garden, it's a school garden that is integrated into the curriculum, giving kids a hands-on environment in which to apply skills learned in traditional math, science, and humanities classes.
Along with these "traditional" school lessons, kids learn the importance of fresh foods and the value of nourishment. Most importantly, they learn what foods are and where they come from, which as we've seen from shows like "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," is a lesson that has been sorely missing from a lot of kids' lives.
The MLK Middle School garden was the original ESY, but it's certainly not the only one. Since the idea first got going in 1995, ESYs have been popping up all over the country in cities like New Orleans, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco. And the idea itself has served as an inspiration for garden programs at all kinds at other schools across the country.
Several of the schools in my county have small gardens that the children tend throughout the year. Unlike ESYs, these gardens have not been incorporated into the school's curriculum, but it's certainly a start and it's an idea that I'd love to get going at my own daughter's school over the next few years.
Does your school district have an ESY? If so, how is it working? If not, would you like to see one get started?